July began in Long Beach, Washington for the annual 4th of July festival. Every year our family beach house is occupied with close friends and family in fluctuating numbers. We walked out to the boardwalk and filled in with the crowd to watch the exceptionally loud booms and bursts over our heads. They were beautiful and quite impressive, but even The Barracuda asked to go home before the show was over. As far as our family was concerned, fireworks weren't the best part.
Junior Rangers, Lewis and Clark, and comic books won out. Fort Clatsop is quite close to Long Beach and we ventured across the Oregon border to visit the Fort Clatsop and hike the short 6.8 mile Fort to Sea Trail which was often traveled by the explores. Cape Disappointment was also hiked, along with visiting an amazing interpretive center.
Jules is a history buff. He finds the ingenuity, resourcefulness, and general stoic nature of early explorers and wars to be wonderful life lessons. I spent years as a Pacific Northwest elementary schooler learning all the ins and outs of Lewis and Clark. Now, in homeschooling The Barracuda we can incorporate both of those skills into teaching him not only about some of the greatest explorers and grandest hikers since our nation's inception, but also to stress the resourceful ingenuity they had to rely on to stay alive. By incorporating hiking into the process, The Barracuda (as well as Jules and I) are having to experience the knowledge and really walk the walk. The Barracuda took the 6.8 miles in stride while my father (a previous Forest Service Hot-Shot) and I got to explain all kinds of native vegetation (my environmental studies course work is coming in handier every day!) Homeschooling curriculum for the year began to take some shape.
It was Fort Clatsop where we learned about the Junior Ranger program. Now, I don't know how many of you out there were forced into family trips involving National Parks or Historical Monuments, but I was one of those
tortured ever-so-lucky youth. We got a little passport thing that could be stamped as we traveled. Well, these days stamps cannot compete with the times. These days kids complete activity books and get really neat embroidered patches. After completing a series of tasks from picking up trash and visiting various other areas of the park to word searches and essay questions, they are sworn in as official Junior Rangers. The kids have to promise to not only protect their National Parks, but to inform other friends and family about the things they have learned to keep our heritage alive (how cool is that!). The Barracuda found this most incredible. After all, we were making him learn all sorts of stuff just for the heck of learning; now patches were involved!
The rest of our vacation became geared around staying in National Parks and completing Junior Rangers patches as a great incentive to keep The Barracuda interested in pushing through 600 mile days. His Osprey pack has become quite covered and National Parks have become even more desirable vacation spots. All National Parks and Historic Sites are involved in the Federal Junior Ranger Program so go ask if you have kids between the ages of 6 and 12. It is honestly pretty cool.
On the way back to the beach house a comic book shop became another must see stop. Jules previously owned a comic book collection that was quite extensive, as well as expensive. Nine-hundred square feet doesn't really allow room for such things, but the zest for super heroes is still there. Now that The Barracuda is desiring to read for more than just information, comic books are a wonderful transition as well as rite of passage. I didn't know it then, but trips like these would set the tone for a whole new chapter of our life as a family.
Comic books in hand, The Barracuda promptly passed out. We headed home to do laundry and pack up our car. Crater Lake and Lassen National Volcanic Monument were in our sights.